Arielle is troubled by what happened in Colorado. I've spent all these years warning the girls about risky choices and avoiding disaster. But going to the movies? How dangerous is that? How do you explain to your children that sometimes bad things just happen and it is not your fault? Arielle is a girl who wants answers in black and white.
Her first question to me--why did a mother take a six-year-old to a PG-13 movie at midnight? Oh, how often I do this when I hear of tragedies that happen! I want to assign blame. Someone must be at fault. And if I can avoid those same mistakes, then I will be safe. But we can't always count on our wise decisions. Sometimes bad things happen anyway, so do you just give up in hopelessness thinking the whole world is in chaos? But we need to trust the One who holds it all together. He is there, even in the midst of the horror.
Is there anyone to blame? Well, the shooter, of course. But then is he just another lost soul? (With a lost mind?) But what made him that way? What facilitated his behavior? Why did he have such easy access to all those weapons and ammunition? The movie itself, some say, is dark and violent. Did that contribute? But it's more than that. I read an interesting analysis in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas said this:
"Did this movie cause this crime? The answer is obviously no. Is this part of a culture that makes acts of violence more inviting? Why, after all, are there so many images around us of violent behavior? Violence in pop culture is something like porn. It doesn't cause behavior, but it may help create a setting in which certain behaviors are more common. We don't ask such nuanced, complex questions because they lead to disturbing conclusions about our society."
So I ask, who is society? We are. Who is ultimately to blame? We are--we who condone, celebrate, laugh about, enjoy, or ignore those things in our culture that promote violence and death. Some say God is to blame. The God who allowed this has disallowed many other things that might have tragically affected our lives. The cancer you didn't get, the car crash you didn't have, the evil person who passed you by. I should have been dead by now. But God in his mercy has granted me life all these years. Who knows what disasters have been averted in our lives?
We live in a broken, violent world. There is no explaining evil. The Christian hope is that one day we will have a redeemed world, absent of evil. In the meantime, God has given us another day of life. Celebrate that.
So what should our response be to this horror? God says, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." II Chronicles 7:13, 14.
I think of Jesus' words at the end of his life. "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not." Matthew 23:37.